The sublime art of doing nothing

We live in a world where time is a currency. Not a minute is to be wasted because every second counts. Since we live in a more networked society than any that the world has seen, we are constantly keeping track of what others are up to. Work updates, family life and personal interests all seem to get updated on a daily basis. Everybody seems to know what everybody else is up to.

It is easy to get caught up in this rush of updates. If you don’t contribute to this stream of information then it somehow doesn’t feel right. It is difficult to resist the urge to plunge headlong into activities and share your involvement with the world. After all, we are constantly tweeting, whatsapping and checking Facebook. In the middle of this information storm, it is no mean task to maintains one’s equilibrium and remain stable.

There is a fine line between doing nothing and staying idle. An idle mind is a devil’s workshop is a constant refrain. This idea means that people are constantly seeking ways in which they can occupy their mind. Idleness implies that you are allowing your mind the freedom to play its tricks. The mind is like a wild horse which will kick and rear up unless it has been appropriately trained. However, this training is often substituted by a harness and reins which chain the horse. The challenge is to be seated on the horse without the framework of these tools. This is where the skill of a rider comes into play.

Doing nothing does not imply that you are lazy. It simply means that you take every day as it comes and allow yourself to move with the flow of time. The absence of a fixed routine can be daunting unless you cultivate multiple interests. The mind is a multi-faceted instrument once you allow it to simply be. There are so many ways in which the energies of the mind can be channelized. However, this can only happen once you develop a certain sense of self awareness.

Work is seen to be synonymous with an office. Whether you are an entrepreneur or a salaried employee, it is assumed that you go to an office and have a set pattern for the day. You are supposed to make money by the day and pursue your interests on the side. After all, passions and professions are meant to occupy distinct spaces in your life. This is where the art of doing nothing comes into play.

Humans have created a society where people go to work in offices and money buys things. This framework forces people to compromise on their dreams and personal interests. In order to explore nothingness, we need to first start experimenting with it on our own time. Weekends, after work hours, coffee breaks and whatever time we can squeeze out from our cramped schedules should be utilized to do nothing. During this time, allow yourself to simply be and let your mind wander. See which direction it takes you to and channelize your body accordingly.

There is a common misconception that to do nothing means that you are not involved in any activity. It is difficult to do nothing because to do so requires a person to track their mind. And, the mind is full of hidden passages and landmines which can cause serious damage to the unsuspecting explorer. However, doing nothing has its advantages. It allows you to understand yourself better and learn what your purpose could possibly be.

The trouble with doing nothing is how you explain it to the world at large. This is a world which demands to know your career details and progression through the ranks. Expertise at doing nothing may be a tremendous achievement at an individual level but it is unlikely to help you secure a high paying job. However, may be this is for the best. If doing nothing appeals to you and you are able to cope with the demands it places on you then a salaried job may not be the best thing for you. You may have just found the artist that lurks within each of us. Each one of us has a creative streak hidden deep within the layers of the mind. The art of doing nothing removes the dust and sand that cover the artist within.

However, being an artist is no easy task. Eventually one needs money to survive in society. And, art too has to conform to the market rules of demand and supply. Expertise at doing nothing has to be coupled with knowledge of what sells and works in the market. This is where the challenge lies. We cannot live in isolation and wax eloquent about the problems with society. The task is to bring your self expression to the table in the form of books, music, paintings and sports and make it attractive to society.

The long hours spend in doing nothing are like gym work for the mind. Muscles get stronger, the structure becomes sturdier and unnecessary fat gets trimmed. Artists get inspiration from anything and everything. As an expert in doing nothing, you need to have child-like enthusiasm for life. You could find joy in the smallest of things and experience irritation at the least noticeable of flaws.

Before you embark on the journey of doing nothing, be wary of what you are stepping into. The art of doing nothing may make you shed your skin like a snake. Once you have shed it, there is no turning back. However, the new you will experience life in a completely novel way. Past experiences will be disregarded and you will have a new perspective regarding what you want from life. However, even snakes need to eke out an existence by partnering with a snake charmer so that they can sustain their presence in society. You can of course choose to hide in the jungle and only appear when you wish to eat or have sex but that would be an injustice to the hard yards you put in shedding your skin.

Doing nothing is not for everybody and yet we all indulge in it. Weekends, post office hours, holidays are all times where people think of what is the purpose of life. However, we quickly silence these thoughts by drowning our self in activities so that we can calm our minds down. Indulge yourself a bit and do nothing. Watch your life change. It is worth the risk.

Originally published at on January 17, 2021.



Runner, Tennis enthusiast, idea hunter, people analyst, qualitative researcher, wordsmith, traveler, dreamer, listener, connecting dots, theater goer

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Harsh Maskara

Runner, Tennis enthusiast, idea hunter, people analyst, qualitative researcher, wordsmith, traveler, dreamer, listener, connecting dots, theater goer